FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 21, 2014
For Information Contact:
Two Men Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder While Armed
In 2008 Slaying of Government Witness
Defendants Also Found Guilty of Criminal Street Gang Charges
WASHINGTON – Willie Walker, Jr., 23, and Ricky Donaldson, 22, both of Washington, D.C., were found guilty by a jury today of first-degree premeditated murder while armed with aggravating circumstances for the September 2008 slaying of a woman who was a government witness, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr.
The verdict followed a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In addition to the first-degree murder charge, the jury found the defendants guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder while armed, obstructing justice, several firearms offenses, and related criminal street gang charges. The jury also found Walker guilty of charges of aggravated assault and assault with intent to kill for two related shootings in February and March of 2008.
The defendants are to be sentenced May 30, 2014 by Honorable John Ramsey Johnson.
According to the government’s evidence, Walker and Donaldson were members of a criminal street gang that operated in the area of the LeDroit Park neighborhood in Northwest Washington. The gang, known as “LDP,” or “Westside,” sold crack cocaine, among other illicit activities, in the Kelly Miller housing development in LeDroit Park.
On Feb. 4, 2008, after an argument, Walker shot a 55-year-old woman multiple times in the legs. The victim immediately identified Walker as her assailant to law enforcement. A warrant was issued for Walker’s arrest, but he was not immediately apprehended. On March 31, 2008, Walker argued with Delois “Peaches” Persha, 44. Ms. Persha referenced the earlier shooting that Walker had committed, telling him that she would not be treated the same way. In response, Walker shot Ms. Persha multiple times in the torso, and then, as she lay on the ground, multiple times in the face. Ms. Persha survived the attack, and immediately identified Walker as her assailant to law enforcement. For her protection, Ms. Persha, who had grown up in LeDroit Park, was relocated out of the area.
After Walker was arrested and detained in July 2008, he and Donaldson, along with the aid of other LDP gang members, began communicating about hunting down and killing the witnesses against Walker. On Sept. 13, 2008, Donaldson located Ms. Persha, who had returned to the area of LeDroit Park, and fatally shot her multiple times in the back and head. Ms. Persha died from her injuries on Sept. 18, 2008.
The jury found Walker guilty of crimes for his role in the February and March 2008 shootings, as well as the murder of Ms. Persha. Donaldson was found guilty in the murder.
“There is nothing we take more seriously than prosecuting those who would dare to use violence against a witness for simply being willing to tell the truth,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “In gunning down a witness, these gang members destroyed their own futures. Their heinous actions will put them where they belong – behind bars for decades.”
In announcing the verdicts, U.S. Attorney Machen praised the work of the detectives, officers, and crime scene technicians who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department. He also expressed appreciation for the work of the FBI’s Cellular Analysis Survey Team. He commended the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Marian Russell, Sharece Muschette, Gary Nails, and Rommell Pachoca; Lead Paralegal Specialist Philip Aronson; Supervisory Paralegal Specialist Sharon Newman; Victim/Witness Advocates Jennifer Clark and Yvonne Bryant; Victim/Witness Security Specialists Michael Hailey, Deborah Cannon, M. Laverne Forrest, Katina Adams-Washington, and David Foster; Intelligence Specialist Zachary McMenamin; former Intelligence Specialist Larry Grasso; Criminal Investigators John Marsh and Durand Odom; and Litigation Technology Specialist Leif Hickling.
Finally, U.S. Attorney Machen recognized the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chrisellen Kolb, Elizabeth Danello, David Goodhand, and Suzanne Curt, who provided legal assistance, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alessio Evangelista and Michael Brittin, who investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberley Nielsen and Jeffrey Pearlman, who prosecuted the case at trial.